Warning: Lost and Heroes spoilers ahead.
I’d like to think Tim Kring was thinking about me when he created Heroes. It’s as though he asked me what I’d like, because the idea of an arcing, multilayered action/adventure series about ordinary people who discover they have superpowers is pretty much what I would come up with if NBC had asked.
Considering how hooked I’ve been on Lost for the past five years, the idea of a new show in the same general vein had me interested. But I didn’t see it right away. When Heroes premiered, I was working nights, and thus didn’t see it until season 1 came out on DVD. I bought it. Was I hooked? At first, yes. But something about it just seemed … off. One thing Lost did well, right off the bat, was handle its many, many characters well. Heroes didn’t do that, and a lot of characters seemed bland and ill-defined. Overall, though, I enjoyed season 1.
Season 2? Not so much. Again, I waited for the box set and watched the 11 episodes of the strike-shortened season, sitting back after the last hour and thinking “I guess that’s it for Heroes.”
But it came back, and this time I activated the old VCR and started watching it week by week. By the seventh or eighth episode, I was done. I couldn’t follow the weirdness, all the time slips and parallel versions of characters and whatever a “catalyst” is supposed to be … there were some wonderful moments, mostly involving Masi Oka as Hiro, but for the most part, I just didn’t care.
Until now. I’m wrapping up the Season 3 box and I have to say Heroes really found its feet again with the second half of the season. Unnecessary twists, like Nathan’s sudden religious zeal, were just dropped and forgotten. Sylar’s story alone is epic, and Zachary Quinto is frighteningly watchable in that role. Touch and Go Baby? Emile Danko? Nathan and Claire’s Mexican getaway? That’s some great TV, and has given me a renewed interest. I’ve taped the beginning of Season 4 and will start watching regularly.
I can’t help but notice a few similarities to Lost. I’m not alone; some people even claim the two shows are set in the same fictional universe. I don’t buy that. But you have to admit, there are a few shared characteristics that go beyond the general ensemble nature of the shows, the time travel and Greg Grunberg. On both Heroes and Lost:
- There’s a young blonde named Claire
- Claire’s real father is someone we already knew.
- There’s a fat guy with daddy issues.
- There’s an Easterner with interesting hair.*
- There’s a creepy guy played by Zeljko Ivanek.
- There’s a person who couldn’t walk who suddenly can.
- There are two Asians who can’t speak English.
- There’s a little black kid with superpowers.
- There’s a family named Dawson.
- The fat guy and the Easterner hide out in one of those two-level California motels, with balconies and courtyards.
- There’s a shootout in that motel.
- There’s a magical African with a big stick.
- A toy vehicle from childhood is a plot point.
- A guy grows a beard to show us he’s depressed.
- A few decades in the past, a whole bunch of people go to live in an isolated place with playground equipment to do science and tinker with nature.
- An Asian guy travels back in time, finds his parents, sees his mother, who died when he was young, but then his dad yells at him without knowing who he is.
- Some Asians suddenly learn English in an interesting, well-written way.
- The little superpowered black kid doesn’t show up for a long time, and when he does, you say “We waited this long for that?”
But I’m just nitpicking. You could say the same thing about any show with science fictiony leanings. Or any nighttime soap opera. It’s part of the storytelling process to seize on the familiar and tweak it. Done well, it succeeds, Done poorly and it’s just a cheap knockoff. Heroes came dangerously close to being a cheap knockoff, but has redeemed itself in my book.
Also, I think Greg Grunberg is really cool, and I like anything where Ivanek (right) gets to be a slimy bad guy.
* This is a tricky point. I chose to make race and appearance a part of this, because it’s part of the casting process and it’s part of who we are, and it makes the bit about the Magical African work. But Lost features an Indian playing an Iraqi, while Heroes features an Indian playing an Indian. Still, they have a common look and style, which seems to involve sweat and undershirts. I just chose to go with “Easterners.”